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03 November 2018


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Paul Oates

Upon due reflection, has there ever been a multi tribal nation artificially constructed by colonial powers, drawing borders to suit themselves but encompassing more than one ethnic grouping, that has not had civil wars and is now tranquil? Look at China.

The UK is a classic example where the English are for Brexit and the Celtic periphery are against.

What caused the UK to be looked on as one country? Well actually it’s not. Unless there is a strong need to keep together (read external threat), the tendency is always to want to split up and fracture along ethnic lines.

Unless a new nation is formed from many different ethnic backgrounds where none is dominant, there will be no central spirit of allegiance develop. Even the US had its own civil war and those tensions are not over to this day.

Australia is one of the few nations where, so far, the nation has been able to juggle regional loyalties together with a developing national pride.

Therefore we, or our politicians, got it wrong over PNG. We just expected the same national feelings to evolve as they did in Australia. That was never going to happen and the politicians at the time steadfastly refused to listen to the few of us who tried to explain what it was like at the kunai roots.

Look at just about every other nation made up of various tribal and ethnic groupings. Most only remain together due to tight military control and often are the source of continual conflict and warfare. Just look at the Middle East, Nigeria or dare I say, nations to our near north.

The obvious conclusion would seem to be that the only way PNG will remain as a nation of collective regional and tribal allegiances is if it is run by a strong dictator who controls the military and police forces.

Q.E.D. That’s where the place has either gone or is going. It’s just taken its own time to evolve in the same way as most other false national constructs.

Perhaps we, on the other hand, just find that fact very hard to accept.

Paul Oates

Johnny, I suggest one of the biggest hurdles facing political leadership in PNG is Tribalism.

Politicians from one regional block may not be respected or accepted by another.

The balancing act to gain control and therefore government only transcends clan, tribe and regions occurs after those individuals who are lucky enough to be elected are then are available to be offered positions and power.

Incumbency often helps due to available resources and influence but the roots of any true inspirational PNG leader has yet to be established. Michael Somare had some respect due to his historical place in national history yet he found it difficult to gain total ascendancy over all regional leaders.

Traditional village fight leaders were only chosen for a time of conflict and there were very few traditional leaders who were recognized outside of their own community. The 'Trobes' comes to mind and maybe some on the Gazelle Peninsular. Mostly traditional leadership in PNG was by consensuses.

Johnny Blades

Just curious, can anyone point to any charismatic leaders in the current mix who may be able to galvanise support for a change, as Paul suggests?

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think there's a hidden message here Paul.

Sir Mekere Morauta seems to be saying that the leader of the government is now a much more powerful person than ever before and certainly more powerful than a conventional prime minister should ever be.

I'm not sure this is a reassuring message. It seems to indicate that the prime minister's position is beginning to resemble that of a dictator.

The messaging coming from PNG at present is that the prime minister's position is coming under threat from some on his own side and the opposition seems to be reacting to this by a re-alignment of their own ranks - KJ

Paul Oates

Sorry Sir Mekere, this plea like all the former ones, will all on deaf ears.

Why? Well there’s two main reasons.

Firstly, those politicians who might be tempted to change allegiance will only do so if they feel their ‘opportunities’ under a new leader are better than those at present.

Secondly, the vast majority of PNG people have lost any hope in a change of direction. Examples like conducting strike action will never amount to much since it only ‘possibly’ affects those in metropolitan areas. Perhaps one could even be churlish enough to suggest that there might not seem to be too much difference during a strike than there is every day anyway?

Changing to a new leader is no guarantee to effecting political change any. Just look at Australia in recent years.

Before there can be any change in leadership worth the effort, there has to be a clear-cut break from the past and the promise of something better.

Exactly how would a change of leadership in PNG effectively change the malaise and corruption currently ruining the country?

While it’s true that the disease starts at the top, there are too many now who owe their allegiance to political appointments and would therefore fear retribution and dismissal if there was a change in direction.

To effect a real change and one that is sustainable, there has to be a strong, charismatic leader who can gain the trust of a majority of followers to support a change. There has to be a clear and believable promise that things will be different and better than they are now.

The only way I can see that ever happening is to promise a believable sunset and sunrise promises for all PNGians.

A ‘sunset’ promise saying that who benefited before that change will not suffer and a ‘sunrise’ promise that everyone will simply be better off after the change.

With believable promises like these, maybe a change could be accepted and effected.

Keep it simple and don’t get bogged down in detail.

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